UCL Engineers harness ice-cream factories and robot toothbrushes in a bite-size university syllabus to stretch and challenge school pupils

27 November 2015
This post was originally published on this site

The courses are running in schools across London, and in a second phase will expand across the UK. For pupils in years 5 and 6, learning all about ice-cream might sound like a dream come true. But it will also be a new learning experience, where they will be coming into contact with a whole host of different types of engineering, from chemical to mechanical. The “Everyday Engineering” programme has been designed to open pupils’ eyes to the variety of the discipline and how much of their lives it touches. Getting them thinking in an engineer-like manner, they will learn skills ranging from working in teams to considering trial-and-error techniques.

robotPupils in years 7 and 8 will be using a toothbrush to explore the engineering theme of ‘Changing Lives’. Starting with a familiar item, they will take it apart and use its components as the basis for building a robot, fitting it with a microchip and sensors, and programming it to respond to simple commands. The project is a challenge, and has a deeper meaning too – to get pupils thinking about how electrical engineering can change lives, for example how the actions of a robot might make life easier for a person with limited mobility. Pupils will write an academically challenging report on their topic, before visiting a highly-selective university for a graduation event to celebrate their success on the programme.

Emanuela Tilley, Senior Teaching Fellow at the Integrated Engineering Programme at UCL Engineering, explains that the project is intended to change preconceptions about engineering, saying: ‘If you ask a young person what an engineer looks like, they might say a plumber or a mechanic. We want to change that perception and encourage them to see engineers as creators of the science, engineering and technology of the present and the future. The undergraduate degree programme for engineering at UCL has undergone several changes recently, including the introduction of at least four ‘real world projects’ for students to work on each year. Working with schools is part of the organisation’s mission to raise awareness of engineering happening in daily life and its significance to society.

Rachael Curzons, Teaching and Learning Director for The Scholars Programme, said: ‘We are proud to work with UCL Engineering Department and to have created two fascinating courses that will allow younger pupils to really engage with the faculty’s vision for engineering. It is important to be able to introduce pupils to experiences of higher education from a young age, and tailored projects led by real engineers is a great way of increasing pupils’ understanding of what it is like to learn at university level. They will also take part in two university visits over the course of the programme, and will hear from the staff and students about university life. The pupils and their PhD tutors are really looking forward to getting started.’

Elpida Makrygianni, Engineering Education Developer & Coordinator at UCL Engineering, says: ‘We are delighted to be partnering with The Brilliant Club to bring the Integrated Engineering undergraduate programme and syllabus to young audiences across the UK. Our aim is to enable young people to understand what it is that engineers do, to see how it is relevant to their own lives and how engineers plays a significant role in shaping the future and changing the world. We believe in early intervention in order to achieve this and hope that the two courses will offer pupils a real insight into the diversity and breadth of STEM degrees and careers.’


About The Brilliant Club
The Brilliant Club was set up in 2011 to widen access to highly-selective universities for under-represented groups by mobilising researchers to bring academic expertise into state schools. In The Scholars Programme, the organisation trains PhD and post-doctoral researchers to deliver university-style tutorials to small groups of pupils, often based on their research. The pupils also visit highly-selective universities to gain information, advice and guidance and to see for themselves what university life is like. The Brilliant Club currently works with over 6,500 pupils per year nationwide. For more information visit

About the UCL Integrated Engineering Programme

The Integrated Engineering Programme (IEP) is a new integrated framework within the faculty of Engineering at UCL that combines innovative teaching methods and an industry-oriented curriculum with discipline-specific, accredited degree programmes.  Students are given the opportunity to participate in interdisciplinary activities and develop their transferable professional skills in the context of real-world engineering projects.

UCL team members involved in partnership with The Brilliant Club

Dr Elpida Makriygianni – Pre-University Engineering Education Engagement at UCL Engineering

Mrs Emanuela Tilley – Senior Teaching Fellow of the Integrated Engineering Programme at UCL Engineering

Dr Olotu Ogonah – Research Associate in the Department of Biochemical Engineering at UCL

Dr Benn Thomsen – Senior Lecturer in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at UCL

Ms Miriam Nweze – UCL Engineering PhD Student

Mr Francesco Fioranelli – UCL Engineering PhD Student

Prof John Mitchell – IEP Director and Vice-Dean Education for UCL Engineering

Prof Anthony Finkelstein – Dean of UCL Engineering

This news story was originally published on the UCL Engineering Schools Engagement webpages

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